I know a lot of people who have amazing ideas and big goals for themselves and their lives. But they aren’t getting anywhere. Months, even years go by and they are no closer to bringing those ideas to life or accomplishing the goals they set.
On the outside looking in, it’s easy to think that they’re not serious or even that they’re lazy. But this isn’t the case.
What really holds so many of us back is OVERTHINKING!
How do I know this? Because I am the queen of overthinking! I’m absolutely speaking from experience when I say this. And it’s something that I’m actively working on.
But since recognizing it as a major problem for myself, I’ve been noticing it all around me. It’s a pervasive issue that holds a lot of people back from reaching their full potential and living the life they want. Myself included.
Overthinking keeps us stuck in a bubble and discontent because deep down we want more, but can’t get out of our own heads to make it happen.
So if you find yourself constantly thinking, but not making any progress then I’m talking to you! You’re not lazy or incapable, you’re just thinking too much! Keep reading to learn why overthinking is one of your biggest barriers to success and some tips to get you out of your head and moving forward.
Me vs. My Boyfriend
My boyfriend, Aaron collects Funko Pops and decided to start a Youtube channel about this hobby.
If you’ve never heard of Funko Pops (I hadn’t before meeting him), they’re these little bobblehead-looking figures that are made to look like characters from film and tv, sports, video games, politics and everything in between. Check out this video that I actually made an appearance in!
The idea came to him while we were traveling in Barcelona. A day or two after we got home and the jetlag settled, he made his first Youtube video using just his phone.
Fast forward about a year and a half later, he has 7k subscribers (on a pretty niche channel), has monetized his channel, has gotten sponsorships, has fans supporting him and sending gifts, has made friends across the country, and has been invited to conventions. So much has come from him taking that first step and getting started.
And I can tell you for a fact, he did not put a lot of thought into it, at least not at first. Yet he’s been able to grow and evolve to where he is now.
Now let’s talk about me…
I had the idea to start a blog in 2017. Did I start right away? No.
Instead, I spent endless hours researching and brainstorming. What’s the best platform? What’s my niche? What’s the best blogging theme? What should I write about? What should I call it?
I spent so much time thinking about the blog that it took me months to write and publish my first blog post. And when I finally did, I didn’t advertise or tell many people. I just dipped my toe in the water, instead of diving in.
In the following year, I put out a few blog posts, but never remained consistent. And to show you the extent of my overthinking…I even purchased a blogging course that further supported my overthinking and delayed me actually doing the work, i.e. writing and publishing blog posts.
Fast forward to today, I am finally consistent with blogging. I’m sharing my posts and getting some traction with it. But I can’t help but wonder where I would be if I had just gone all in three years ago with my blog. Who knows where I’d be.
But one thing I do know is I would have learned a heck of a lot more than I did filling up Pinterest boards with blogging tips and even taking a course!
So who would you rather be in this scenario, Aaron or me??
The Problem With Overthinking
Let’s first talk about thinking versus overthinking. Just to be clear, I would never suggest jumping into something without taking the time to think it through. Thinking in the form of brainstorming, planning, problem-solving, and reflecting is a crucial first step in anything you want to pursue.
In the short-term, thinking is extremely beneficial. You gain new ideas, perspectives, and insights. It’s an energizing process. It creates excitement and inspiration, fosters creativity, promotes innovation, builds confidence, and ultimately increases your chances of success.
But in the long-term, prolonged thinking does the opposite. It becomes de-energizing. All the planning and researching becomes draining, stressful and anxiety-producing. This is overthinking.
You’ve heard of analysis paralysis? The more you analyze a situation, the more overwhelmed you become by all the possible options and outcomes, and the less likely you are to make a decision and move forward.
This is the biggest problem with overthinking. It keeps you from taking action and delays your progress. It’s no surprise that overthinking goes hand in hand with procrastination.
This cycle is counterproductive because taking action (actually doing that thing you keep thinking about) is where you end up learning the most. Overthinking just delays the real, hands-on learning which is both valuable and necessary.
Ultimately, when you overthink, you’re jeopardizing your success because the more you think, and plan, and research, the less likely you are to ever take that first step to get started!
Why You’re Overthinking
There are many surface-level reasons you might be overthinking and stuck in analysis paralysis. But when it comes down to it, the root of it all is fear.
And know that there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s completely normal to be fearful of the unknown when preparing to try something new. But it’s important to be aware of it. Once you recognize your fear and where it’s coming from, you can tackle it head-on.
According to Jay Shetty, there are four main sources of fear:
- fear of failure,
- fear of not meeting expectations,
- fear of a lack of ability, and
- fear of regret.
Thinking about myself and my blog, I had a lot of fear coming from all of these sources:
Fear of failure – What if it didn’t work out? What if no one reads it?
Fear of expectations – What if my blog didn’t look as professional as all the other blogs I was reading?
Fear of ability – What if my writing skills weren’t up to par?
Fear of regret – What if it ends up being a waste of time? Then again, what if I don’t do it and miss out on a great opportunity?
These were some of the thoughts that were going through my mind at the time. A lot of “what if” that were all rooted in fear. And these thoughts kept me stuck, constantly seeking out more information so I could feel prepared and less scared to get started.
Think about which of these four sources is affecting you and holding you back from taking real action.
How to stop overthinking
If you’re a chronic overthinker (like I tend to be), the habit can be hard to break. But if you’re willing to get a little uncomfortable, do some inner work, and be open to challenges, you don’t have to let overthinking hold you back from success. To stop overthinking, here’s what you need to do:
Dissect your fears
We talked about the four main sources of fear. Ask yourself, what are you afraid of? And dig deep to uncover where the fear is coming from. Spend some time dissecting your fears so that you fully understand what’s causing you to ruminate and remain stagnant.
I recommend journaling or writing down your thoughts on this in some format. Writing allows you to better process and organize your thoughts and feelings. Or talk through your thoughts with someone you trust.
Here are some questions to consider:
- How is fear affecting my behavior?
- What feelings or experiences am I trying to avoid by not taking action on my goals?
- Which of the four sources of fear is affecting me the most?
- Where does this fear come from?
- Have I experienced this fear in other situations?
- Is this fear rational?
- If I didn’t have this fear, what would I do?
Once you have a deep understanding of where your fears are coming from, the next step is to rationalize them.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to start a side-hustle selling jewelry, but you don’t believe you have the time to commit to it right now. Instead, you spend your free time researching jewelry designs, reading about other jewelry businesses, watching Youtube videos about entrepreneurship, etc. You say you don’t have time, but you are spending the time you do have thinking and learning about it. What’s really going on?
Maybe you’re worried about your skill level; maybe you’re concerned that if you spend the little time you have and it doesn’t work out it’ll have been a waste; maybe you’re scared that no one will buy your jewelry and it will be a total flop.
These are just a few examples of the different types of fears that can come into play.
Let’s say you fear that no one will buy your jewelry. To rationalize this fear, question why you think that. What evidence do you have that no one will buy? (None.) How can you find out whether anyone will buy it? (Try and see).
Questions like these allow you to challenge your fearful thinking and bring you into a more logical headspace where you can make sound decisions.
Create a deadline
Remember planning is essential. You have to take the necessary time to flesh out your idea, understand any constraints, and develop a plan of action. However, without any deadline, the planning phase could go on forever!
Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This is very true. If you give yourself a month to research a jewelry vendor, for example, it’ll take you a month. If you give yourself a week, it’ll take a week.
The more time you give yourself to think and plan, the longer it will take you, and the more likely you are to cross over into overthinking territory.
I’m the kind of person that works better under pressure. I need to have a deadline prompting me to get things done. Setting a deadline for yourself is a very effective way to combat overthinking. If you know you have to take action by a certain date, then you are going to be much more focused, targeted, and productive with your planning and preparation.
Even better, make your deadline official. Write it on your calendar, post it on the fridge, tell friends or family about it. You could even recruit an accountability partner to help you stay on track.
Whatever it is you commit to, make sure it’s reasonable. If you don’t know anything about jewelry, giving yourself a week to start your whole business is unrealistic and will only lead to frustration. Always try to give yourself easy wins so that you are encouraged to keep moving forward.
Start before you’re ready
Most of the time we overthink because we don’t feel prepared. We don’t think we have what it takes yet. Whether it’s having the knowledge, the skills, the network, the talent, the (fill in the blank).
There’s an element of self-doubt that comes with overthinking. And we assume that we need to overcome that self-doubt in order to get started on our goals. That we need to wait until we have enough knowledge, skills, network, etc to move forward.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, you’re just not ready.
But let me tell you a little secret: being ready is a myth. You’re never going to be 100% ready for anything in life. No matter how much learning and researching you do, you can’t avoid the unexpected. You don’t even know what you don’t know. You will learn the most through your own experience and active engagement in whatever it is you want to do.
I’ve learned so much more about blogging by actually blogging. And I build more comfort and confidence the more I do it.
When you start before you’re ready, as hard and uncomfortable as it may feel, you slowly remove self-doubt because you’re giving yourself the chance to prove (to yourself) that you can do it. And even when challenges arise, you see that you can handle them. You start to trust yourself and increase confidence in your abilities.
Pushing yourself to take action, even when you don’t quite feel ready is one of the best ways to get out of your head and stop overthinking.
As you can see, overthinking is a major obstacle to accomplishing your goals and fulfilling your biggest dreams. It creates a lot of unneeded stress and anxiety and holds us back from living the life we really want. And this stress and dissatisfaction can trickle down and affect other areas of life, compromising our overall well-being. If you’re interested in working on reducing feelings of overwhelm and stress so you can finally make progress on your goals, I’d love to help! Click here to schedule a free 30 min Strategy Session.